Friday, March 03, 2006

The Mohawks - Ride Your Pony

Ride Your Pony!
Happy Friday, y’all! Today, a blustery day, not unlike those that plagued the Hundred Acre Wood for so many years, is salvaged by two factors.
A. The sun is out #2. I have some Hawkshaw to lay on you (always a good thing).
Wha’zat, you say? Hawk-what? That’s Alan Hawkshaw, the certifiable master Hammond massager, and Library music composer non pareil. Still drawing a blank? Remember this?
Do doo doo, do doo doo, do doodle-y doo!
That’s right! The Mohawks, the otherwise anonymous Hammond combo that brought us the mighty ‘Champ’, ‘Baby Hold On’ et al. The leader of that studio conglomeration, manning the mighty Hammond was none other than Alan Hawkshaw. For those of you that aren’t already hip to the “Library” thing, in brief, it was music composed for use as background music in advertising, TV shows and the like, once thought disposable, but now highly collectable and thus pulling serious coin from aficionados. Mr. Hawkshaw composed a buttload of same, as well as lending his keyboard talents to other folks, not the least of whom being Keith Mansfield, of ‘Boogaloo’ and ‘Soul Thing’ fame. In 1968, Mr. Hawkshaw and a collection of studio folk recorded an LP and a series of 45s for the Pama/Supreme labels in the UK, under the nom de guerre ‘The Mohawks’. The most famous number they laid down was the aforementioned ‘Champ’, a not so reworked, as re-spelled version of ‘Tramp’ that has since become a huge favorite of the Hammond and breakbeat crowds (having been sampled at least 40 times by Eric B and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and De La Soul among others). They had some 45s (‘Champ’ & “Baby Hold On’) issued in the US on the Cotillion label (not too hard to find, but not cheap either), and in Europe on the Philips label. Hawkshaw, who spent most of the 60’s as an in demand studio player (Tom Jones, Cliff Richard, Donovan, Dusty Springfield et al), and then as a backing musician for the Shadows in the 60's and 70’s, did some of his best work recording the aforementioned “Library” music for the KPM, DeWolfe and Chappell companies. The Mohawks side project was successful diversion (with Hawkshaw working under the alias “Morris Hawk”). I can’t tell you how they ended up on the Pama/Supreme labels*, which had previously been home mostly to soul and reggae acts, but I can tell you that their 45s are all worth picking up, and if you can find the ultra-rare and oft bootlegged LP, you are a lucky bastard. Hawkshaw also recorded and released similar material under the guise of the Salon Band and Rumplestiltskin around the same time. Today’s selection is one I grabbed a couple of years ago, and haven’t seen a copy of since. One of the few Mohawks tracks to appear only on a 45, ‘Ride Your Pony’ is also one of their best. Opening with some nice loud drums, the background singers drop in, repeating the title of the tune a couple of times until the familiar sound of Hawkshaw’s Hammond comes a- soloing. The playing is hot, and a little bit closer to Hawkshaw’s solo on Keith Mansfield’s ‘Boogaloo’ than to ‘Champ’, but that is hair that need not be split at all, since both solos are smoking. While the overall effect isn’t as instantly iconic as ‘Champ’, few 45s are, and Hawkshaw and company do Messrs Dorsey and Toussaint proud. As far as I can tell, ‘Ride Your Pony’ has yet to be reissued. There are a couple of excellent Hawkshaw/Mohawks related reissues out there, though be forewarned that the Mohawks LP has seen a repressing of substandard quality, and you’d be wise to grab one of the CD reissues that take a look at his entire career, Mohawks and otherwise.
* It should be noted that there is at least one reggae 45 under the Mohawks name, i.e. a cover of the Beatles 'Let It Be', though I can't say if it's the same group (doesn't sound like it...)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Larry,

why is the reissue LP of substandard? I know that the cover is crap. And so is the sound?


3/03/2006 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

There's at least one vinyl reissue from the last five or so years that has absolutely horrendous sound quality. I can't remember who put it out (a friend made me a copy).

3/04/2006 04:16:00 PM  
Anonymous funky navigator said...

Hi Larry,

Another Mohawks 45 on the Parma Supreme label and well worth finding is their version of General Crook's Gimme Some. Absolute killer version with instrumental on the flip. A (non record collecting) friend bought it for me for my birthday. What a guy! It's pretty rare and I believe has been reissued in the UK at least. If you've not heard it let me now and I'll get a clip and label pic to you.

Dan (UK)

11/23/2006 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous patoopic said...

Was looking for info on Ja Tramp label when I cam e across this-we have copies of Jamaican Mohawks?? or some Mohawks doing The Champ on JJ label, as wel as For Our Liberty on pama & Hold On Baby on Carib Disco. Were there two groups then one in Ja and one in England?

2/06/2007 06:34:00 PM  

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